Thursday, November 14, 2013

the Angels of Light

From 1970 on, the white hot center of San Francisco's
radical gay culture was in theater: a madcap group called
"The Cockettes," lasted two years and then it split into
professionals and a free troup: "The Angels of Light."

"The Angels" would zoom towards their zenith in 1980,
then limp along until fizzling in 1984. But throughout an
eight year hay-day, this was SF's absolute non-plus ultra
for hilarious insanity, eye-popping costumes and sets,
psychological transformation and a unique fusion of stage
with its adoring audience/community. That became legend.

But the group wasn't only entertainment; it was political
and made a social statement too. A collective- one which
was about evenly divided between men and women-
it was largely gay or bisexual, but certainly not completely.
The Angels were also a free theater who lived communally,
practiced vegetarianism, non-monogamy and resisted
defiantly many, many offers to sell out or go commercial.

I was part of the group- one of the principle performers
and the scriptwriter of two hit epic shows between 1974
to 1980. It was an amazing time. Harvey Milk certainly
symbolized the political vanguard of the City. We were
the artistic counterparts with a few occasional crossovers
into Harvey's sphere. The two ran side by side.

A wild, oftentimes anarchistic theater, which staged giant
fairy tales on an opera-sized scale, a world of puppets, masks,
acid fantasies, tap-dancing and  mime, ballet and high camp
all fused in art that blew apart accepted rules of 20th century
theater. Smashing the concept of "the unity of time and space"
propelled viewers into a magical world of beauty, imagination
and outrageousness, simultaneously communicating the utter
fabulous-ness of being gay and liberated and free.

But it was surely a doomed world. It would last only as long
as the post-hippie "Glitter Age" could fend off the undertow
of a country lurching from prosperity to austerity. It was also
undermined by the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan and the
horror of AIDS in 1981. The arrival of computers transformed
the world from a personal/handmade culture with the Internet
and, of course, there was incredible damage and self-damage
through drug and alcohol abuse. As a consequence, many fell
by the wayside. Now only a few survive.

Still, like the cabaret world of Berlin in the 1920s, and the 60s
era between the starting of the Haight Ashbury counterculture
and Woodstock in 1969- (an event which followed Stonewall
by only a scant month)- this explosive, radical, wild, gay world
existed full-blown. To be "out" and visible initiated a process
that changed the nation and helped change the world, not only
for gay people, but also for the Intersex folk and in other ways.

It connected to the growing concern for ecology, the recognition
of other spiritual traditions (Native American, those from India-
yoga, meditation) and healthful living. It accompanied a move
back to the land- a migration of marijuana farmers from SF north-
which affected local legislation and changed California politics.
It affected Statewide ballot initiatives and was part of the process
which defeated Right Wing maniacs when they tried to persecute
gay teachers or quarantine people infected with HIV.

Progressive/revolutionary Art and politics meshed in a fusion
not seen before or since. Boomeranging out of the repressed 50s,
fueled by the 60s youth movement, it all got traction in the 70s,
brought down a corrupt President through Watergate and went
on to address further causes.

I look back with some pride when I think of the many brave souls
who took risks or accepted voluntary sacrifice for a greater good.   
In that respect, I know LGBT people in the Gay Revolution were
in the forefront- not simply motivated by selfish concerns, but by
an awareness of human rights and civil equality for all people-
irregardless of race, religion, sex, gender or gender preference.
And that's what it's all about. Or so say I.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

W blows it again.

What is there to say? W is going to speak
at a messianic organization which is about
converting Jews to Christianity in order
to bring about the second coming of Jesus
and so, trigger, the End of Days.

So that is what he believes. And disgusting
as it is, it also explains much of his conduct.
I just wonder: why is this man not in prison
for war crimes, crimes against humanity,
and, also, betraying his oath of office.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

THE ACLU joins my new work!

I'm proud to announce that James Gilliam,
the Director of the ACLU in Southern California
is going to contribute to my anthology-in-process.

James is a lawyer. He represented the family
of Sean Walsh, a bullied teen who killed himself
because he was so harassed for being gay.

Thanks to his work, the ACLU has revitalized
its attention regarding the bullying of LGBT teens.
I'm honored that James is adding his voice
to this project.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The conversion of a Zionist

My beloved friend, Esther, was born in about 1923 and grew up in a non-secular Jewish home. The family was politically radical, and, so, as a young woman, Esther was a fierce supporter of Israel. Later on, in fact, two of her three children lived on kibbutzes. I am the same age. (Incidentally, a Quaker- not a Jew).

Esther earned a doctorate in Philosophy from the University of California in the late 1940s. She was one of the finest, most ethical, people I've ever known. Over time, Esther's enthusiasm for Israel turned to dismay and, finally, disgust over its militarism and suppression of Palestinians. As someone deeply righteous, she was appalled by the transformation of what had begun as an idealistic country into a fascist regime, as the great Argentinian hero- a world famous humanitarian, Jacobo Timmerman, wrote in his 1982 book: THE LONGEST WAR. 

What Esther came to see- reluctantly- was that Israel had fulfilled the terrible prophesy- "the abused become abusers." By the last Israeli invasion and destruction of Lebanon, it had lost her sympathy. Indeed, she told me, Israel had lost its moral right to exist.

With Iran serious about giving up its nuclear program, we see Netanyahu's sullen thuggish resentment at a growing international move to boycott Israel as the US ends sanctions, on Iran. I think it's time to take a careful look at the facts. If there is ever to be Mid-East peace, it must absolutely entail justice for Palestinians, a two-state solution; the abandoning of illegal settlements (including many that have been built in the Occupied West Bank); the establishing of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem; and many other things, such as their right to control the water on their land.    

I don't speak as an enemy of Israel but, rather, as one interested in peace and justice. My hope is that the Israelis wake up while there is still time, throw Netanahyu out on his ass, and get serious about negotiations. Everyone has an ancient book, which promises them cosmic rights: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc.- everyone can claim justification for what they want. But justice delayed is justice denied, and if Israel continues along this tragically self-defeating path, it guarantees a terrible fate.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The" Black" Taj Mahal

For hundreds of years a legend existed of a black Taj Mahal.
It was said that Shah Jahan, who has the Taj Mahal built
as a memorial to his beloved Queen, Mumtaz, had planned
to have an identical black one built across the Yamura River.
But he was overthrown by his son before he could proceed
and that is why it wasn't built, some said.

The Taj Mahal sits in an enclosed garden overlooking the river.
On the far side, there was nothing, just scrub land, essentially.
But some years ago, archeologists found the remains of a huge
basin, which once contained water. It's about 100 yards long
and shaped a bit like a an oblong. It's just up the river bank.

This ornamental pool was built at the same time as the Taj.
It was positioned to be in a formal garden, of course, since
the Mughals so loved their gardens and flowers. This pool
was placed so that, each month, the full moon would reflect
the Taj in its waters, but it would appear to be black, of course.

And so, there it is- the legendary black Taj Mahal- constructed
not out of marble, but of moonlight and water.

Beware of UMPQUA Bank!

Worst bank ever!

They cancelled my credit card and ATM card
when I was in India last year., despite
weeks of assuring me they wouldn't do it.

I had to borrow money to get home.

Once home, I called CEO, Ray Davis,
in Portland. A true classic, he asked me,
"You got back to this country safely...
so what's the problem?"

I closed my account at once, of course.
But they will not stop sending me emails.
I've asked 10 times. They will not stop.

Worst bank ever. Beware.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Art imitarting life inimating Art

What an amazing day.

Since 1980- yes- since 1980, I have been writing
a novel titled SWAN OF THE GODS.

It is inspired by one of the great reclining nudes
painted by Amedeo Modigliani (the one at the Met)
and concerns how the painting influences the life
of the model and her family over a sixty year period.

Paradoxically, I know the painting extremely well.
My parents collected art; the bought things from
Klaus and Dolly Perls, who owned the Modigliani.
I used to go visit the painting and Klaus and Dolly
are characters in my book.

One of the major sub-themes concerns Nazi plunder
of art from Jews trying to get out of 1930s Germany.

Just now, I read that a cache of 1500 works of great
art, including some that I write about in my novel (!)
has been discovered in Germany. It's top international
news today.

What a coincidence! Life imitates art imitating life.
Or art imitates Life imitating art.

Go figure.